Frequently Asked Questions
- How did this all come about?
- Why have a playbook for teams in particular?
- Why are there only three types of teams on this site?
- Is this playbook really used by Atlassian teams?
- How do I know the Health Monitor and plays will work?
- How often is the playbook updated?
- Why is Atlassian sharing this?
- Is the idea to use all these plays all the time?
- What's with the rubber chicken?
- How can I send feedback or get someone from Atlassian to run a session with my team?
- Does this replace my team's current development methodology?
- Is there a particular order to run the plays in?
- Some plays have templates, can I grab them?
- The legal stuff... what do I need to know?
- I've heard Atlassian talk about the importance of company culture. How does the Team Playbook fit in?
1. How did this all come about?
As a company with offices on five continents employing over 1800 people hailing from who-knows-how-many countries, and a "be the change you seek" grassroots culture to boot, we know the messiness of teamwork as well as anyone (and probably better than most).
We absolutely rely on teams to solve our toughest problems. But we had to do something about that mess. It was causing too much noise, and not letting enough signal come through. So naturally, we set a team on it! What they developed over the course of about two years was a set of "plays" for working through common problems like delivering high-volume, high-quality service or simply agreeing on a project's goals.
Plays remove the naturally-occurring friction our teams face. They provide a common language used across the entire company. They let teams spend all their mental fuel on the task at hand instead of wasting it on bespoke ways to approach the task. Simply put, plays unleash more of our teams' potential.
Now we're sharing them as a playbook that teams of all types can use to manage and execute work, assess team health, address weaknesses, and monitor progress. And because we believe leadership is personal (not positional), the plays can be introduced by any member of the team, regardless of title or role.
2. Why have a playbook for teams in particular?
The short answer is: because teamwork is really f'ing hard. The long answer, of course, is more complicated.
We could've focused on individual productivity or company-level productivity. But there's already a tonne of (really good) info out there about individuals and companies. Teams, on the other hand, are not only hardest to solve for but also the least understood. This, despite the fact that teams are required for solving complex problems.
It's teams who move the world forward. But teamwork gets messy. Different priorities, different personalities... and increasingly, different geographies. If you've never known the *ahem* joys of scheduling a meeting with team members on three different continents, you will soon.
Compounding teams' logistical challenges is the diversity paradox: the reality that a variety of skills, ages, and backgrounds makes for higher-performing, healthier teams – whilst simultaneously making the interpersonal dynamics harder. Navigating different personalities and problem solving styles is the tax we pay on having right people in the room.
And tools alone can't fix this. If your team doesn't have the right people, principles, and practices in place, stop looking for a magic tool and take a look in the mirror instead. (Incidentally, that's exactly what the Health Monitor is designed to be: a mirror. Think of it as an annual physical for your team. But much less... er, invasive.)
If you're here because you want to help your team, but don't quite know how to turn that desire into action, you're in the right place.
3. Why are there only three types of teams on this site?
We believe that defining teams by skill set is too limited. Especially in an agile world where cross-functional and/or temporary teams are so common. (For example, the team that built this site represent six different job functions, and none report to the same manager.) So we started looking at teams through a new lens.
We define teams not by their specializations, but by their output of work and by the means that work is generated in the first place. The project, service, and leadership team personas are our first iteration. But, while useful, we know this collection is incomplete.
Look for updates to this site as we expand the team personas. Each new persona will come with a customized Health Monitor, and maybe even a smattering of new plays. Leave us your email using the form at the bottom of the homepage and you'll get updates as new stuff is added.
4. Is this playbook really used by Atlassian teams?
Yes. The common attributes we've observed amongst healthy teams... the Health Monitor that lets you assess strengths and weaknesses... the plays... all that stuff is real. It doesn't come from ivory tower theory or double-blind experimental research. It comes from practice.
Atlassian teams use the Health Monitor and the plays on this site every day (as in, we literally use this site). Some of the plays are Atlassian originals, some are ideas we've borrowed from other experts in this space and adapted.
We're loathe to label any of the plays as "best practice". We've blended elements of agile, lean, and design thinking in developing (and in some cases, borrowing) the plays. So you'll notice diverse methodologies reflected in them – which we think is a good fit for teams with diverse goals, skills, and personalities.
5. How do I know the Health Monitor and plays will work?
You don't. We guarantee they work for our teams, but can't guarantee they'll resonate with yours.
They're better than the usual top-down approach to teamwork, though. (Yeah, we said it.) Whilst companies have traditionally mandated process and standardization in an effort to eliminate variability, our approach is to create guard rails inside which teams have flexibility and autonomy. Instead of obsessing about the effort a team puts in, we focus on their outcomes. Where many companies create monolithic skill-based teams, we go for small cross-functional teams.
6. How often is the playbook updated?
There's no formal release cadence. But the playbook will never be considered "finished", so it'll be updated from time to time. We've used the plays, improved them, and will continue to iterate on them. We'll keep our scratch paper to ourselves, and not share a new or updated play here until it's working awesome for our teams. Leave us your email (preferably the one you use at work) using the form at the bottom of the homepage and you'll get updates as new stuff is added.
But that doesn't mean they'll be perfect. Try the plays with your team, and if you love them, great. If not, adapt and make them your own!
7. Why is Atlassian sharing this?
Two reasons. First, our mission is to unleash the potential in every team. But tools (even ours) only get you so far. Tools support the processes you've got on the ground – and if those are crap, no tool will save you. The attributes that we've observed amongst high-performing teams and the plays that help build teams' health have been a tremendous asset for us.
Now it's time to share it with our customers' teams. And our former customers' teams, and teams that will never be our customers... it doesn't matter. The point is to make this information available to every team in the hopes they can unleash more of their potential.
Second, because "Open company, no bullshit". 'Nuf said.
8. Is the idea to use all these plays all the time?
The plays are designed to contribute to your daily work, not distract from it. Still, running all the plays would be overkill (and ultimately, distracting – which would defeat the whole purpose). It's all about running the right play(s) for your team when you need them.
You're the best judge of what to use, and when. Use regular Health Monitor sessions to point yourself toward the most helpful plays based on which areas your team is struggling with. Or head to the page with all the plays and filter by team type and/or pain point to get some suggestions.
9. What's with the rubber chicken?
You'll notice that a rubber chicken is listed amongst the materials needed to run several of the plays. That's really a thing. It started when our Head of Design, Jurgen Spangl, brought "Helmut the Facilitation Chicken" into our Sydney office. His team use Helmut to keep workshops and sparring sessions on track. Helmut was such a hit, more facilitation chickens started appearing, and now Helmut's flock can be found in each of our offices around the globe.
Here's how it works. Let's say you're in a workshop where everyone brainstorms individually for 5 minutes, then share their ideas. Set your team to brainstorming and when 5 minutes are up, give your rubber chicken a squeeze to signal that it's time for pencils down. (If you can't find a rubber chicken with a squeak box, you can always learn how to cluck and/or crow.) Teams with crazy-high trust and rapport might also use a squeaky rubber chicken to call the group's attention back to the task at hand when they stray off topic.
We love letting Helmut & crew do the stay-on-task nagging for us. Because even in the heat of an impassioned debate, it's pretty hard to get mad at a chicken.
10. How can I send feedback or get someone from Atlassian to run a session with my team?
We'd love to hear what's working for you, and what's not. Bring it! If you're on an Atlassian team, ping Dominic Price or Bernie Ferguson. Else, use the "Give Feedback" feature on each play page to tell us what's on your mind.
And if you're blown away, floored, or generally beside yourself with joy because your team are loving this site, feel free to say so on Twitter and mention @Atlassian. Just sayin'.
11. Does this replace my team's current development methodology?
No. And we're loathe to label any of this as "best practice". We've blended elements of agile, lean, and design thinking in developing (and in some cases, borrowing) the plays. So you'll notice diverse methodologies reflected in them, which we think is a good fit for teams with diverse goals, skills, and personalities.
Use the health monitors and plays to boost your team's performance. And make sure you're challenging these sessions for value. Don't just go through the paces – that's when team rituals only slow you down.
12. Is there a particular order to run the plays in?
Not really. Think of the plays as a "choose your own adventure as you chow through your favourite breakfast buffet" – get what you need to fuel your day, then get on with it.
While some plays will help you envision your end state, others will help in building it and others will help to improve it once it's in your customers hands. Make sure you select the plays that are fit for the job you need to do.
Need help with that? Look for each play's "Use this play to..." section, or head to the top-level plays page and filter by pain point. And while it's probably better to start with a healthy bircher muesli and juice, sometimes – just sometimes – you might decide to start the day with cake. Eat cake for breakfast? Sure, why not?
13. Some plays have templates, can I grab them?
Sure. Some of the plays have templates, which include instructional text and examples for you to reference. For these plays, you'll see download links. If you're a Confluence customer you'll be able to download the template through the Atlassian Marketplace as a free add-on.
If you're not an Atlassian customer, use the PDF templates available.
14. The legal stuff... what do I need to know?
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and you're good to share and adapt – please do! Just make sure you follow the terms as included in the link above.
15. I've heard Atlassian talk about the importance of company culture. How does the Team Playbook fit in?
We’re proud of our culture and the values that define it – and we’re not afraid to say so. We don’t assume our culture is right for every company, but we believe some of the ways we keep our culture flame burning brightly might resonate with other companies.
There are three levels at which we operate within Atlassian – as one organization, as an ever-evolving set of teams (for which the Team Playbook was built), and as a collection of individuals. Our culture and values have meaning at each level, and there are practices we’ve adopted to help us augment it as individuals, as teams, and as an organization.
Organization. At the organization level, Atlassian has practices that support fundamental aspects of our culture such as innovation, giving back, and transparency (among others). Take ShipIt, for example: a 24-hour period of innovation that happens every quarter at Atlassian, in all offices across the globe. We invite everyone to make, build, or design anything they want, then present what they’ve created. ShipIt infuses the whole company with innovation – not just the engineering teams.
Teams. We live and breathe teams. We rely on teams to create our products. We build our products to make teamwork work. We publicly released a report about the diversity within our teams (not just our overall organization). Our stock ticker symbol is TEAM for pete's sake! So it’s no surprise that we value team health and effectiveness. That’s where the Team Playbook comes in. Every day you’ll find Atlassians using the Team Playbook to assess their team's health, or to build muscle in their weak areas. Working as a team to maximize performance is core to how we operate.
Individuals. At the end of the day we’re all individuals. There is a “me” in team if you look closely. Atlassian believes unleashing the power of teams relies on unleashing the strength of each individual. That starts with valuing individuality, and Atlassian’s culture welcomes employees to “come as you are” to work everyday. At work, individuals are encouraged to maximize their own productivity in ways that work for them. A common practice among Atlassians at the individual level is setting aside time for deep work. Individuals are encouraged to block their calendars as needed to really get in the zone.
Atlassian’s culture is defined by our values and it thrives because of the practices we nurture at the individual, team, and organization level. For Atlassian, “culture” and “values” are alive and are to be lived. They’re not just a set of words written on a page gathering dust or painted on a wall. We encourage other companies to think deeply about their culture and the vales that matter to them, and then put practices in place that truly support and reinforce what’s most important.